Monday, February 12, 2018

California Stem Cell CEO Millan on What's Missing in CIRM News Coverage

California's $3 billion stem cell research program suffers from the same sort of problem that arises at other state departments, ranging from Fish and Wildlife to Pesticide Regulation.

They are all struggling to gain the public's attention, tell their story and create support for their activities. The big difference is that Fish and Game and Pesticide Regulation are not likely to go out of business in two years. The stem cell agency, however, could well be on its way to closing its doors by then because it is running out of cash.

The California Stem Cell Report recently talked with Maria Millan, CEO and president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), as the agency is formally known. One of the topics was news coverage and how the agency is perceived, especially considering that voters may be asked to give the agency another $5 billion.

Millan was asked: What is the most "uncovered" story about CIRM, what is the "least written about?" Here is how she responded,
"I don't think people really have an understanding for what the value proposition of CIRM is as an agency. They know we're a funding agency, and I think it's best recognized for money."
Millan said that a lot of news coverage involves such things as "are you spending that money well, do you have enough oversight, do you have enough things in place to make sure that that's being done responsibly? There's a lot of focus on that."
"I think we've solved a lot of those issues and have things in place to catch issues and deal with them as they come up.... Part of it is that some of these assets didn't exist before and now we have them, and part of it is that the field has matured, and we've been positioned well to drive it."
Millan said that CIRM is "the model" for stem cell research and its funding. She said, 
"It's well-recognized that we do this very, very well. The NIH (National Institutes of Health) recognizes that we've been able in the space of stem cell regenerative medicine to do this extremely well. We have a portfolio in terms of development and our way of doing things that's unparalleled. 
"They recognize that. We're working with them to generalize this and it'll just be a two-way street in terms of benefiting for both sides of relationships."
Millan also talked about the value that her agency brings to the state, enhancing its position globally in biomedical research. She said,
"My goal is to make sure that we're responsibly sharing the knowledge, bringing things forward, because it's going to benefit California. I know that we want to make sure that we're responsible for optimizing our funds that they really support California directly, but there are a lot of things that can happen outside that will feed into us if we enable them."
Significant coverage in the mainstream media of the activities of the agency, created by voters in 2004, is rare nowadays. However, CIRM recently received some widespread attention within the state and nationally as the result of a lengthy assessment of its efforts on NPR and KQED's web sites.

The November 2020 ballot, which will include a presidential election, is the target date for the proposed $5 billion bond measure to keep CIRM alive.  Look for more intense coverage of the agency as that date nears.

(Look for more on the California Stem Cell Report on our conversation with Millan in the coming weeks.) Sphere: Related Content

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